When it comes to jobs and the economy the House Republican Caucus slogan is very simple, “Let's get Washington working.” The effort to turn our economy around should be simple, too. Common-sense measures, such as one-stop shopping for businesses to take care of licensing and permitting needs, building on our workers' compensation reforms, looking at growth management laws in counties with high unemployment, addressing regulatory reforms, reclassifying hydropower as “renewable” and having a constitutional amendment that would require a two-third's vote for all tax increases. I truly believe if we would start to address some of these issues, we could see accelerated improvement in our production sector. That is where we would see many of the best opportunities for stable, family-wage jobs – jobs that offer a hope and a future for Washington families.
Unfortunately, as job creators know, these changes have been anything but simple. Yet we will not be deterred. Despite the uphill battle to improve our business climate and provide our employers with some certainty and stability, our caucus developed a very comprehensive package of bills this session that we feel could be key to turning our economy around.
Job Creation Agenda
1) Workers' compensation reform (House Bills 1463, 1464, 1465 – Manweller) – House Republicans support additional changes to the workers' compensation system that were initially made in 2011 – changes to address final settlement options and other reforms, and protect earnings for those who suffer work-related injuries and illness.
2) Regulatory Freedom and Accountability Act (House Bill 1163 – Taylor) – Would save taxpayer dollars by streamlining government operations, ending duplicative state services and targeting government waste.
3) Improve customer service for job creators (House Bill's 1403 and 1757 – Smith) – requires the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to provide the Legislature with a plan for establishing performance benchmarks, and for measuring the results of implementing a one-stop portal.
4) Suspend Growth Management Act (GMA) requirements in counties with significant and persistent unemployment (House Bill 1619 – Short) – Alleviate the cost and encumbrance of controlling growth when none is occurring and when those regulations stand in the way of badly needed economic development.
5) Require permit decisions in 90 days (House Bill 1236 – Pike) – Would require agencies to make permit decisions in 90 days or the permit is granted. This would add certainty and eliminate unnecessary delays in permit decisions in order to stimulate economic activity. Let's free up those who are ready to put people to work.
6) Moratorium on rulemaking (House Bill 1478 – Orcutt) – Would impose a moratorium on formal and informal rule-making by state agencies, except in certain specified instances, to last for three years or until the state is no longer facing financial deficits. We support the previous governor's decision to suspend unnecessary rulemaking and the extension of the moratorium for three years or until state revenue growth shows evidence of economic recovery.
7) Establishes the Regulatory Fairness Act of 2013 (House Bill 1162 – Overstreet) – Would require an agency to determine whether compliance of a rule will result in an economic impact and, if the agency determines that a rule will result in a specified economic impact, it must provide notification and may not enforce the rule until the Legislature enacts the law.
8) Reclassify hydropower as renewable energy (House Joint Resolution 4200 – Haler) – Proposes an amendment to the state Constitution to require hydroelectric generation be recognized as a renewable resource. Let's recapture our state's competitive advantage of offering abundant, affordable, clean energy for manufacturers and consumers.
9) Legislative approval of certain agency rules (House Joint Resolution 4204 – Manweller) – A constitutional amendment to require certain agency rules to gain legislative approval.
10) A 2/3's vote requirement by the Legislature for taxes (House Joint Resolution 4206 – Orcutt) – Would propose an amendment to the state constitution to place restrictions on tax increases.
You can find out more by clicking on: Our Solutions – Jobs and Economy.
There has been support for the business portal legislation and some regulatory reform issues, but there is a lot of legislation out there that suggests we are going in the wrong direction.
Bad business bills
The most concerning part of the session is the number of bills we have seen that will hurt our employers. We know you cannot spend your way out of a recession. What gets us out of recessions has been an improving economy and growth, particularly by small business. Yet, we have seen bills that penalize our job creators and put additional mandates and expenses on our employers. There are bills to punish independent contractors, require mandatory sick leave, paid family leave, and requiring prevailing wage on most projects.
- House Bill 1440 – would criminalize employers hiring independent contractors. This bill would be the most dramatic shift in employer-employee relationships we have ever seen. It would establish criteria so when employers cease to employ someone they would be at risk of penalties from an oversight task force with the Employment Security Department. It will create an unlevel playing field for employers who believe they are complying with current employment law and it will increase underground economy activity.
- House Bill 1313 – would require employers with more than four full-time equivalent employees to provide paid sick leave to employees. The Washington Policy Center estimates mandatory paid sick days could cost Seattle businesses and consumers between $30 and $90 million a year. Employees are already protected by a half-a-dozen federal and state laws mandating paid and unpaid leave provisions as well as job protection.
- House Bill 1457 – would set a new level of family and medical leave standards. Employees could receive up to a $1000 per week during two different 12-week periods; or a total of 24 weeks! No other state in the country has this high of standard. Not even California.
No wonder our economy remains sluggish. What employers are willing to invest or hire in their business if the state continually looks at more laws and mandatory regulations? Now our employers face even greater uncertainty and instability with the looming threat of tax increases with the recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling in League of Education Voters v. State of Washington, where the court ruled that a two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes is unconstitutional.
Our caucus knows our proposals can help turn things around. We will continue to work with our employers and business community to make Washington a great place to do business again. It is a formidable challenge, but one we must take on if we are to build a better economy and provide our citizens opportunity.
It is important we hear from you. Please click on the survey to the left so you can tell us what the Legislature should be doing to help get Washington working.